Women in Animation has named “Steven Universe” creator Rebecca Sugar, the short film “All Those Sensations in My Belly” by Marko Dješka and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative recipients of the organization’s WIA Diversity Awards.

The awards are presented in partnership with the Spark Computer Graphics Society and will be given in a taped presentation available online during the Spark Animation 2021 confab, now running virtually through Nov. 7.

“WIA Diversity Awards highlight some of the success stories on the journey to creating more balanced representation in the animation industry, in hopes that such courageous and important work inspires others to open doors to more diversity among filmmakers and more authentic story-telling,” says WIA president Marge Dean. This is the fifth time the organizations have bestowed these honors.

Sugar is receiving the award for individual achievement. Sugar was the first non-male solo showrunner at Cartoon Network with the groundbreaking “Steven Universe” and is a longtime champion for LGBTQIA+ content in children’s media and more inclusivity both onscreen and behind the scenes in the animation industry. “Rebecca Sugar was a champion for gender justice long before that term even existed,” says Dean. “She has challenged the binary assumptions of gender in her work, in her communication with the world, and in how she lives her life. She is a uniquely amazing person who moves through the world as a living example of the very best of being human.”

“I’m moved and honored to be recognized by Women in Animation as a non-binary artist,” says Sugar. “I’m so grateful to everyone working to amplify marginalized voices within the animation industry. Thank you so much for your support.”

The award for short film is a juried award presented by the Spark Computer Graphics Society. “All Those Sensations in My Belly” is an animated documentary that follows a trans girl named Matia who is transitioning from male to female and looking for a sincere intimate relationship. “The Spark Animation Festival jury selected Marko Dješka’s “All Those Sensations in My Belly” for its powerful visualization of the struggles of self-discovery and finding one’s place in the world,” explains Marina Antunes, festival director.

The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is receiving the award for organizational achievement for its longtime research efforts into representation, characterization and inclusion in the entertainment industry. The initiative has worked with Women in Animation to produce two groundbreaking studies regarding the animation industry in the United States and the VFX industry worldwide.  “After years of great partnership, WIA could not be more thrilled to present the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative with the 2021 WIA Diversity Award for Organizational Achievement for their important work in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and creating accountability measures not only in animation, but for the entertainment industry as a whole,” says WIA secretary Julie Ann Crommett.

“We are grateful to Women in Animation for this award,” says Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Stacy L. Smith. “Animation has a very important place in the initiative’s history from our early work on films, and we have found it important to continue that work with Women in Animation through our groundbreaking studies both in 2019 and our upcoming report on VFX. WIA has impacted the industry not only through their advocacy, but because the creative talent of women throughout the animation industry has impacted the lives of so many viewers—including those on our team. We’re honored to be recognized and eager to continue our work together.”